Conservative talk radio host Ray Briem, a pioneer in the Los Angeles overnight market, has passed away at age 82, his daughter announced on Wednesday.
In a testament to his influence on talk radio, Michael Reagan — Ronald Reagan’s elder son and the former host of a nationally syndicated radio talk show — told Newsmax: “Before Rush, before Hannity, and certainly before me and other conservatives, there was the voice of Ray Briem.”
Briem was on KABC from 1967 to 1994 following seven years at KLAC.
He was mentored early in his career by firebrand conservative talk show host Joe Pyne, and at the time of his retirement commanded 15.7 percent of local radio listeners, according to Mediabistro.
“Few people know that Ronald Reagan’s first interview when he decided to run for governor of California was with Ray Briem,” Christopher Ruddy, CEO of Newsmax Media and a long-time friend of Briem’s, said.
Ruddy noted that Briem, using his media perch, “was a prime mover of the Reagan revolution” – and was listened to by a devoted audience that included people like Reagan, his wife Nancy, Richard Nixon, Frank Sinatra, and many other influential Californians.
Briem focused on political issues, but also featured interviews with his favorite performers from the big band era and the golden age of movies and television. He was conservative but loved taking on President Clinton and other liberal politicians, the Los Angeles Times noted.
A frequent guest was Howard Jarvis, the attorney and political activist, who used the show as a platform to promote California's historic property tax limitation initiative, Proposition 13, in 1978.
The beloved graveyard shift host received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was honored by Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters in 2008. More than 1,000 listeners attended his retirement party, which featured artists including Frankie Laine and the Mills Brothers.
In an interview with the Times days before his 1994 retirement, Briem said: “I’m 65 and my body says staying up all night ain’t the right thing to do. You never get used to it. Your biological clock, your circadian rhythms are always upset. There will be times I will miss it, but being able to sleep at night — oh, how wonderful!”
He said he was looking forward to pursuing his hobbies of flying, ham radio, and listening to big band music.
“I’ll be able to be economically independent because I have taken care of myself pension-wise,” he said at his retirement. “I can then cherry-pick if I decide to come back to radio but nothing before 9 a.m. or after 7 p.m.”
He did go on to briefly host an afternoon talk show on Glendale’s KIEV, taking part in a lineup that included broadcasting legend George Putnam and Peter Ford, son of the late actor Glenn Ford.
Ruddy noted that he saw Briem just weeks ago at a dinner in Beverly Hills, along with Peter Ford and his wife Lynda.
“He looked remarkably fit and good. Like always, he had great energy and great funny stories,” Ruddy recounted.
“He was remarkable not so much as a personality, which he was, but because of his integrity as a person, as a man who loved his country and his family,” Ruddy said of his friend.
KABC host Doug McIntyre posted on Wednesday: "A great broadcaster has died. Ray Briem owned overnights in Southern California for nearly 30 years. He was the guy who gave me my first taste of radio and it was an incredible honor to have inherited overnights at KABC after he retired.
“In addition to his brilliant broadcasting career he was a man of great personal integrity. I miss him already."
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